Chuckbox in Tempe: Rating the Tijuana Torpedo
The Chuckbox has attracted burger-lovers to Tempe for four decades with a cabin-in-the-woods atmosphere and its mesquite charcoal grill. So, knowing the Chuckbox is a staple of Phoenix burgers, I ventured to the Chuckbox for the second edition of my Burger Summer.
As soon as you walk into the shack, Broilologist Big Juan greats you with a toothless grin, ready to take your order. Since I went with a bacon cheeseburger last week, I decided to try the Tijuana Torpedo, which is just a great name for a hamburger. The burger includes a slice of jalapeño Jack cheese topped with grilled green chile, and I ordered the Chuckbox's golden French fries as the side.
The Patty: 5 Once Big Juan throws down the ground chuck it immediately earns the name torpedo with its long narrow shape. The torpedo shape provides a little more meat than your average round patty, which I am always for. And while it wasn't the greatest piece of meat, the burger base covered in a blend of secret spices was tasty nonetheless. Yet Big Juan might need a refresher course in broilogy. He slightly overcooked the hamburger, which dried up some of the juices, and the greasy juices seem like the best part of a Chuckbox burger.
Toppings: 5 The torpedo is topped with a slice of jalapeño Jack cheese and, surprisingly, sweet grilled green chile. Being from Southwest, when I hear the words jalepeño and green chile I expect to be kicked in the mouth with spice; I was even a little afraid my taste buds wouldn't be up to the challenge. Somewhat unfortunately, my tolerance for spicy food wasn't tested in the slightest. I tasted no jalepeño in the cheese and the chile only added a hint of spice. The sweet green chile did, however, taste pretty good on the burger, and would've been a nice touch if it wasn't the centerpiece of the burger. The condiment bar helps, allowing you to pick the fixin's just the way you like it.
The Bun: 2 This was the absolute worst part of the burger. Their menu says the Tijuana Torpedo comes on a "torpedo shaped roll," yet all I saw were sesame-seed buns that you can buy in any grocery store. (Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I have those same buns in my kitchen.) The torpedo burger jutted out from the sides and made eating a messy affair. Plus, what is the point of a sesame-seed bun? 20 sesame seeds glued to a bun doesn't add any flavor. I have never heard anyone say, "Can you believe the flavor of those sesame seeds on that bun? Damn!" If anything, it's just a gimmick McDonald's uses to make their Big Mac seem "sophisticated."
Side: 5 After I ordered my burger, I had a difficult choice between French fries and beer-battered onion rings. Yeah, I lead a tough life. The fries were thick-cut and I figured, with the possibility of a spicy burger, the starchier choice would be best, but we all know how that turned out (see above). Still, the fries got the job done, even though they should have been cooked a little longer to give them a more golden color. However, they did have ranch dressing at the condiment bar, so I can forgive.
Price: 8 Where else can you find a green chile burger for less than $6? It is also about $3 for fries and a drink. Add on some tax, and it comes out to be exactly $10.
Overall: 5 I was a little disappointed in the Chuckbox and thought the burger needed that something extra to take the next step in burgerdom.
Chuckbox's location, just north of the Tempe ASU campus, is a great place for college students, as a $6 burger, cooked on a grill that appears very well-seasoned, would hit the spot after a night of one too many shots.
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